Fount of the Church’s power flows through Liturgy

August 18, 2015

HOUSTON — Last year, Pope Francis called for a renewed commitment to Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, which defines the Liturgy as “the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed... the fount from which all the Church’s power flows” (CSL 10). The pope called for a renewal in the “commitment to receive and implement” the document’s teaching in a fuller manner.

The ministry that seeks to fulfill this mission by making Liturgy the continual source of spiritual growth and development of the Church in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is the Office of Worship. It was established in the 1980s. Over the past three decades, prior directors have laid a solid foundation for this Office and have responded to the expanding needs in the Archdiocese. The office is one of 60 ministries supported by the 2015 Diocesan Services Fund (DSF).

“Our mission is essential to the life of the Church since Liturgy is where we are made one in holiness, where we are formed into the people of God,” said Sandy Higgins, director of the Office of Worship for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. “We are deeply drawn into the love of Christ and abundantly showered with grace. This encounter profoundly changes us to be able to do Christ’s work in the world.”

Higgins said the Office of Worship has increased its responsibilities based on the growing needs of the Archdiocese. Office staff and qualified leaders in the Archdiocese lead workshops at the parish level to provide formation and continuing educational opportunities. Formation for Liturgical ministers is available in both English and Spanish.

The office reviews all Liturgies at which a bishop presides. Higgins said this review helps ensure the Liturgy is well prepared and allows the office to give insight and education those who prepare the Liturgy.

The office provides support for those who lead the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in their parish and is responsible for major related Archdiocesan Liturgies throughout the year. The office maintains the inventory of Archdiocesan vestments.

“We held the Rite of Election at five different locations last year with approximately 1,550 catechumens and 800 candidates with their Godparents/sponsors in attendance,” Higgins said. “We prepare the Chrism Mass and at its conclusion, a team of volunteers bottle the blessed and consecrated oils for distribution to all parishes in the Archdiocese. We also coordinated the seven Masses held over Pentecost weekend during which nearly 1,000 adults were confirmed, completing their Sacraments of initiation.”

The Office of Worship is a resource when a church is being built or renovated, and is present at its dedication. Higgins said Daniel Cardinal DiNardo has dedicated 27 churches in the Houston area alone. 

To help preserve art and architecture that help create good environments for worship and spirituality, the Office of Worship offers input in the construction and renovation of churches through the Archdiocesan Construction Office and also is available for consultation on other related matters. Workshops are available to assist art and environment teams in parishes.

“Our Archdiocese is blessed to be in an area of the United States that is growing its Catholic population, and as such, Houston has become a popular location for national Catholic conferences,” Higgins said. “Next year, we are excited to host the National Pastoral Musicians Conference. We also are involved when a Mass is being celebrated at a hotel or convention center, such as the Archdiocesan Youth Conference Mass held annually in July.”

The Office of Worship also focuses on ensuring divine worship and Liturgical music remain vital to prayer in full accord with the directives of the Church. Over the past few years, there has been an emphasis on the formation of Hispanic Music Ministers in the Archdiocese. Under the direction of Dr. Rick Lopez of the Office, the Archdiocesan Choir and Catholic Schools Choir assist the faithful in singing the Liturgy. These choirs are composed of volunteers who dedicate hours in preparation for major Liturgies. 

In addition, the Office of Worship provides assistance in the preparation of good Liturgical celebrations with an eye to nurturing faith in all those participating.

“By its nature, Liturgy is formative of faith,” Higgins said. “We hear the Word of God proclaimed, which challenges us; we offer our very lives to be transformed just as the gifts of bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. By helping parishes form their ministers well, we encourage well-celebrated liturgies where the faithful can experience this intimate encounter with Christ.”

Higgins believes the DSF is critical to enabling the Office to provide these services to parishes. 

“DSF allows us to assist pastors by forming ministers who can help to prepare Liturgies well,” Higgins said. “By supporting the work of this office, DSF provides a resource for pastors, parish staff and our growing Catholic population.”